How to recover from the worst kind of breakup

Dear Daughter,

The other night, while watching my new favorite show Parenthood, I started bawling. I always cry a little while watching that show, but this particular episode really got to me because in it, 18-year-old Haddie is dumped by her 20-year-old boyfriend Alex. He breaks up with her simply because he fell out of love with her. He isn’t a jerk about it at all; in fact, it’s clear to see that it breaks his heart to hurt her. He just doesn’t have feelings for her anymore. What was once there simply is not anymore.

I think the reason this hit me so hard is because… well, for one, I’m pregnant, but that’s besides the point. It was devastating to me because I was watching it from the perspective of both Haddie and also her mother, who is pained by her daughter’s heartache.

Daughter, I’m gonna give it to you straight: this kind of breakup is the worst kind there is. When a boy dumps you, you almost want it to be the result of something you’ve done wrong, so you know exactly what happened that made him want to leave. But when he tells you he no longer is attracted to you, it’s so hard not to feel badly about yourself. You’ll ask yourself questions over and over again: “Does he think I’m ugly now? Did I annoy him? Is there someone else?” And there’s no real closure, because you can’t pinpoint the exact moment that everything went south. But it did and the man you cared about is gone.

Now I’m depressed.

But there actually is a bright side to this. Because what happens after the breakup can be one of the most uplifting, character-building opportunities you’ll ever experience. This is when the people who love you—who will always love you no matter what—come to your side to support you and help you realize that you are wonderful, just not meant for this particular man. It’s when you look back at the things you could have done differently, the result of which will benefit future relationships. It’s when you come to a point where you can choose to keep wallowing and wondering, or you can get back on your feet and move on. You will survive this, after all. It will get better every day, and someday, believe it or not, you’ll stop thinking about it altogether.

I’ve had a few of these painful breakups in my past, and I know I’m a much stronger woman because of them. I can handle rejection better because I’ve lived through it and survived it. Plus, now that I have a man who couldn’t be more perfect for me, I’m so grateful that it didn’t end up working out with those guys. I’m grateful that they helped pave the way to a loving, fruitful marriage, to a man who loves me without fail.

It pains me to think that you might someday experience a breakup like the one Haddie did. But I know you will bounce back from it and will be stronger because of it. And any time you need to hear a reason why you are worthy to be loved… well… I’ll give you a million and one.

Love,
Mom

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What I learned about love from High School Musical

Dear Daughter,

A couple years ago, you were slightly obsessed with the High School Musical movies and their corresponding merchandise. For months, Troy and Gabriella’s perfect faces smiled back at me from your lunch box, backpack and nearly every t-shirt you owned. That phase didn’t last long, though. Soon enough, you moved on to Camp Rock, the Jonas Brothers, Wizards of Waverly Place… whichever Disney franchise was hot at the moment.

I actually didn’t mind when you watched the High School Musical movies every night of the week. They are fun, wholesome films that teach some valuable lessons, I think. And one of those lessons is that every girl should settle for nothing less than a Troy Bolton.

Troy Bolton is the star of the film, and the star of his school. He’s incredibly handsome, has a gazillion friends and is the basketball team’s MVP. Oh, and he can sing and dance, too. He pretty much has it all. But that’s not what makes him a catch.

In the first High School Musical, Troy meets Gabriella, a super-smart new girl who challenges him to befriend people outside of the popular group he hangs with. He and Gabriella become a couple in that first film, and in the sequel, they’re crazy in love. In the third and final film, they further their commitment to each other, despite the fact that they’ll be going to different colleges.

One theme remains throughout all three films: Troy absolutely adores Gabriella. It’s obvious just by the way he looks at her, but it’s also because he makes her a priority. When he gets offered a summer job, he won’t take it until the company offers Gabriella one too. When he receives acceptance letters from a few different universities, he chooses the one closest to Gabriella. When she moves to California early for a pre-college course, he drives all the way there from Albuquerque to show her that he’s still in this relationship for good. Aside from the grand gestures, he calls her, takes her on unique dates, and checks in on her midday to see how she’s doing. Plus, you can see from Troy’s body language alone that Gabriella is his world.

Daughter, when it comes time for you to start dating, it is my hope that you will find a Troy Bolton. He doesn’t have to be the most popular or best-looking like Troy is, but he should adore you the way Troy does Gabriella. He should make you a priority in his life, he should gaze at you with love and adoration, he should want to become a better person because of you.

One can argue that High School Musical is just a fairy tale, and in many ways it is. But there truly are lots of Troy Boltons out there. They may be more difficult to find than the average, run-of-the-mill punk, but they are out there and are waiting for a good girl to love. My hope is that you won’t settle until you find one.

Love,
Mom